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Nicole Lafond

Nicole Lafond is a news writer for TPM based in New York City. She is also currently earning a master's degree in journalism from Columbia University and previously worked as an education reporter at The News-Gazette in Champaign, Ill. Follow her on Twitter @Nicole_Lafond.

Articles by Nichole

Vice President Mike Pence is putting careful distance between himself and revelations of a meeting between Donald Trump Jr. and a Kremlin-linked lawyer in June 2016, which took place just a little more than a month before he joined President Donald Trump’s campaign. Trump’s son-in-law Jared Kushner and Paul Manafort — Trump’s campaign manager at the time — also sat in on the meeting.

“The Vice President is working every day to advance the President’s agenda, which is what the American people sent us here to do. The Vice President was not aware of the meeting. He is not focused on stories about the campaign, particularly stories about the time before he joined the ticket,” Pence’s press secretary Marc Lotter said in an email to TPM.

The usually vocal-on-Twitter President has also been closed-lipped about news that his son met with a Russian lawyer under the premise that he would receive incriminating information about Hillary Clinton’s that would help Trump’s campaign. He hasn’t tweeted anything about the meeting since it was revealed over the weekend.

On Tuesday morning Trump Jr. released the emails between himself and family friend Rob Goldstone that led to the meeting, which confirm that the President’s son took the meeting to get information about Clinton and that the Russian government wanted to help the Trump campaign.   

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An independent journalist, who said he spent a year chasing the story about Donald Trump Jr. meeting with a Kremlin-linked lawyer to get information that would help his father’s campaign, launched a tweet-storm after Trump Jr. released the email chain that lead up to the Russia meeting.

Jared Yates Sexton, who has been published in the New York Times, Politico and The New Republic, called the story the “dumbest and biggest crime in the history of American politics” and said Trump Jr. “just released the smoking gun.”

He lamented the fact that he had spent a full year chasing the story and the President’s son “just hit tweet.”

Trump Jr.’s tweets came moments before the New York Times published a piece outlining the contents of the emails, which confirm that the President’s son took the meeting in order to get information about Hillary Clinton’s dealings with Russia that would help his father’s campaign.

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The hosts of “Fox and Friends” clarified a point on a story they reported Monday about former FBI director James Comey leaking classified information, with host Steve Doocy saying the program was “mistaken” on the story.

“Yesterday on this program, we aired and tweeted this story saying former FBI director James Comey leaked memos containing top secret information. We were mistaken in that, according to the report, half of the memos contained information classified at the secret or confidential level, not top secret and the markings of the government documents in which Mr. Comey leaked are at this point unclear. Just wanted to straighten that out,” he said.

The clarification comes after the President tweeted about the story Monday, saying Comey leaked classified information to the media and adding, “That is so illegal!”

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The ranking Democratic on the House Intelligence Committee said Donald Trump Jr.’s meeting with a Kremlin-linked lawyer last year on the premises of getting information that would be helpful to his father’s campaign could be considered “a potential form of collusion.”

Rep. Adam Schiff (D-CA) on MSNBC’s “Morning Joe” that the meeting “obviously” warrants a “very thorough investigation.” Schiff said if the facts add up that Trump Jr. met with a foreign government to get help with the campaign, it makes “all the denials we’ve seen since that much more unbelievably suspect.”

“First there was, ‘We never had any kind of meetings like that, and then there was, ‘OK, we did have a meeting, but it was about adoptions.’ Then, of course, Paul Manafort, the campaign manager is there. Why would he come to a meeting about adoptions?” Schiff said. “Then it’s about the Magnitsky Act, that’s a sanctions legislation that sanctions Russians who are committing human rights abuses.”

“Then, we learn that, well, actually they went hoping to get damaging information from the Russians about Hillary Clinton. So, the investigation continues to shift, of course not just for Don Jr. , but for many in the Trump world and all of it raises a lot of alarm for us,” he said.

If it ends up being true that the Trump campaign went to the meeting to enlist help from Russia, that would be a “potential form of collusion,” he said.

“If they were soliciting or receiving essentially in-kind contributions from a foreign government in a U.S. election, that would violate, I think, any number of laws,” he said.

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Donald Trump Jr. took to Twitter Tuesday morning to slam the media for being “extremely invested” in the story of his father’s campaign potentially colluding with Russia to influence the 2016 election, following news that Trump Jr. met with a Kremlin-linked lawyer last year on the premises of getting information that would be helpful to the campaign.

Trump Jr., White House adviser Jared Kushner and then-campaign manager Paul Manafort met with Russian lawyer Natalia Veselnitskaya at Trump Tower not long after President Donald Trump secured the Republican nomination. The lawyer has since denied that she told Trump Jr. that she had promised compromising information on Hillary Clinton.

The President’s son attacked the media two days after the news broke, saying the press must be desperate to cover the Russia story if “this nonsense meeting is all they have” after a year.

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Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) is joining the group of Republican senators who are willing to give up their August vacation in order to come up with a plan to repeal Obamacare, saying it would be “catastrophic if we fail to deliver on that promise.”

Appearing on the Sean Hannity show on Fox Monday night, the conservative senator said he’s been spending “every waking moment” trying to come up with a plan to unify his party on health care.

“For seven years Republicans have promised the voters, ‘If you elect us, the one thing we said is we will repeal Obamacare. … I am trying to bring together conservatives and moderates and leadership and the administration, get everyone on the same page and say ‘Let’s deliver on the promise when it comes to Obamacare,’” he said. “I think the voters would naturally say ‘To heck with all of you’ if we can’t get our act together and get it done.”

He said he has no plans to take the August recess until the GOP can get something put together.

“It’s crazy that we would be taking a recess. There are a bunch of us, myself included, that have been urging leadership back from January, ‘Let’s not take any recesses. Let’s work weekdays, let’s work weekends, let’s work until we get the job done,’” he said.

The President is in agreement with Cruz’ remarks, as he retweeted a “Fox and Friends” clip of the Hannity interview on Tuesday morning. On Monday President Donald Trump said he “cannot imagine” that lawmakers would “dare to leave Washington” without a health care plan.

Cruz’s comments follow remarks squashing the Senate health bill from prominent party leaders, like Senator John McCain (R-AZ) who said over the weekend that the plan to repeal and replace Obamacare is “probably going to be dead.”

At the end of June, a group of 10 Senators — spearheaded by Sen. David Perdue (R-GA) — asked Senate majority leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) to shorten or cancel the August recess if Republicans don’t make progress on their health care plan.

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Another group is suing President Donald Trump’s bogus “election integrity” commission for failing to follow federal open meeting laws.

The Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law filed a lawsuit Monday after the election commission failed to provide information about its upcoming meeting on June 19, which is not open to the public. The Lawyers’ Committee says this violates the Federal Advisory Committee Act, which requires advisory committees to post notice of meetings, make their discussions open to the public and that written records of the meetings be shared publicly. 

Similar to a suit filed by the American Civil Liberties Union, the Lawyers’ Committee complaint claims the election panel’s upcoming meeting should be open to the public and calls on the group to be transparent about its intentions with the voter data it requested from all 50 states.

The lawsuit asks for a temporary halt on the election commission’s operations until it can produce public records from its meetings. It also demands that all of the panel’s meetings be open to the public.

“We filed today’s lawsuit because the so-called Election Integrity Commission has been operating covertly and its actions, to date, have been shrouded in secrecy,” Kristen Clarke, president and executive director of the Lawyers’ Committee, said in a statement. “Through the Federal Advisory Committee Act, we are using an important statutory tool to expose and curb the illegitimacy of this commission and to bar the commencement of any meetings before they make materials available for our inspection. In our view, the commission must not conduct any meetings before complying with our request. We will continue to fight to expose all of the commission’s illegitimate actions.” 

The suit was filed with Arnold and Porter Kaye Scholer, an international law firm in Washington, D.C. The lawsuit is not the Lawyers’ Committees first action against Trump’s election commission. The group sent letters to secretaries of state telling them to not comply with the panel’s voter data requests and put together a bipartisan resolution condemning the group. It filed a Hatch Act complaint against the commission chair Kris Kobach, the secretary of state in Kansas.

Nearly every state has responded saying it will either not provide any of the information or only give the election integrity commission publicly available data.

Read Lawyers’ Committee complaint below:

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After President Donald Trump announced that the U.S. and Russia were talking about forming an “impenetrable” cyber security unit, only to reverse himself 12 hours later, the White House said Monday Russia is a “cyber threat,” but the U.S. should still work with the country.

“We recognize that Russia is a cyber threat,” White House deputy press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said in an off-camera briefing. “But we also recognize the need to have conversations with our adversaries, and when our adversaries see strength like they did with the President in the meeting, they can look for other ways to work on shared interests, and look for positive places where they can move the ball forward, particularly on things like the cease-fire and that became a greater focus, and something the President chose to stay focused on is that front.”

When asked if the plan to partner with Russia on combating election hacking was dead, Sanders said she didn’t think there was ever actually a plan in place.

“Look, I would say that discussions may still take place, but that’s as far as it is right now. I‘m not sure that there were specific details discussed,” she said. “I think it was simply just a discussion on cyber security threats and potential options not necessarily a formal kind of structure in place.”

The comments came after the President seemingly flip-flopped on his plans to work with Russia to combat cyber security on Sunday following widespread criticism about the plan.

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The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) filed a lawsuit Monday in federal court in Washington, D.C. over a lack of transparency by President Donald Trump’s bogus election fraud commission.

The lawsuit alleges the panel has failed to follow the Federal Advisory Committee Act, which requires advisory committees to post notice of meetings, make their discussions open to the public and that written records of the meetings be shared publicly. Commissions also must provide evidence that they aren’t being influenced by special interest groups or the President. ACLU attorneys said the lack of transparency raises “serious concerns” about what the commission is trying to accomplish.

This process is cloaked in secrecy, raising serious concerns about its credibility and intent. What are they trying to hide?” ACLU staff attorney Theresa Lee said in a statement.

The election fraud panel — created through a Trump executive order — requested all 50 states hand over sensitive voter data, like addresses, military status and the last four digits of voters’ social security numbers. Nearly every state has responded saying it will either not provide any of the information or only give the commission publicly available data.

The ACLU lawsuit claims the commission has operated with secrecy by not only failing to explain how it plans to use the data it requested from states, but also how it would protect the information.

“Our election process must be secure, fair, and transparent,” said Sophia Lin Lakin, a staff attorney with the ACLU’s Voting Rights Project. “Yet the commission is conducting its work deep in the shadows, making it alarmingly suspect. The commission is legally required to conduct the people’s business in the light of day.”

 Read the ACLU’s complaint below:

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In a heated exchange Monday between White House adviser Kellyanne Conway and CNN host Chris Cuomo, Conway mocked the journalist for working at CNN and said the network is “invested” in creating a story about the President colluding with Russia to interfere with the U.S. election.

“We cannot convert wishful thinking to hard evidence. … If we were in court your side would not even survive a motion to dismiss because you’ve got nothing. On this one, Don Jr. has very clearly said he was told that there would be some kind of information helpful to the campaign. It quickly because very apparent there was not,” Conway said, when asked if she was concerned about reports that Donald Trump Jr. met with a Kremlin-linked lawyer last June. Conway said that having the campaign leaders like Paul Manafort and Jared Kushner present in the meeting was “standard procedure.”

“Let’s focus on what did not happen in that meeting. No information was provided that was meaningful. No action taken. Nothing,” she said.

Cuomo went on to ask Conway about the President’s son’s credibility now that it’s known he actually did meet with Russian officials, after publicly denying it.

“I admire your moxie sitting there with the CNN chyron right next to you talking about credibility issues,” Conway said.

She then accused Cuomo of trying to “produce something” by asking questions about President Donald Trump and his associates changing their position about working with Russian officials.

“What do you mean the President changed his story? The President had nothing to do with this meeting. You want to produce something because you’ve been invested for months now as a network in something that simply doesn’t exist,” she said. “Here is the unfair premise. That we are talking about this again. Yet again. That you talk about Russia more than you talk about America.”

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